What to Do with Tragedy

“There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.” – D. Eisenhower

We all want to keep innocents safe. We all want to think we can walk out into the world on any given day and come home in one piece. We are all humans, and we all have human fears. We all fight and love and laugh and bleed the same. We all want to be, at some basic level, okay. We all like to think that tragedy is something that happens to someone else; until it happens to us.

What happened in Connecticut last week is the worst tragedy we can conceive of. Have you noticed we don’t always respond well to tragedy? We will react in all the exact wrong ways. Shoving microphones into the faces of traumatized children, pointing fingers at who’s to blame. We will listen to television pundits orate on our second amendment rights, as if the reasons why they think we ought to have access to guns in any way help the families whose loved ones were taken too soon. Worst of all, prominent theologians announce their take on how this is God “warning” us about the decrepit state of our society. We, us, all of us, don’t always deal with this well at all.

The best part about humanity is what we see in the middle of senseless horror like this. We sometimes see bright, shining pockets of goodness. The father of a victim expresses his condolences to the family of the person who killed his child. Who has that kind of goodness inside them? I know I don’t. In the days and weeks following this horrible, horrible event, it is wonderful to see outpourings of support to the community, from all across the nation. It’s amazing to see the way we bond together to face down the darkness. Nothing will erase the lives lost or the sorrow left on the lives of the people who were left behind. But as I watch the news stories unfolding, I see more and more goodness reacting in ever-spreading circles outward. This is the part we should focus on – people’s capacity for goodness, for forgiveness, for mercy and compassion. It seems like a trite sentiment in the wake of what has happened, but it’s all we’ve got.

Instead of trying to warp and twist and interpret signs from the gods, instead of using this event to scare and intimidate people into believing, let’s show the world a better side of us. Instead of making proclamations from pulpits about God’s judgment, let’s remember the small faces lost to us forever, and let’s send our prayers and thoughts and light to those suffering in the aftermath of that terrible gunfire. Let’s use our breath for that purpose, because it’s the only one that matters right now.

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